hard for us to resist any furniture combining Gothic elements with
fleurs-de-lys and heraldic motifs, crests or a coat-of-arms. So when we encountered this piece in France,
we knew it would find its way to the Chateau des Bois Collection.TM
Theoverall structure of the cabinet is an octagonal dressoir, stemming from early
furniture makers' innovative placement of a chest on top of a table - hence the
cabinet on top with the open, display area below - to invent one of the
earliest cabinet designs. In this case
there are two levels of cabinet above the open area or "pot board."
The uppermost part of the cabinet has two doors, each with the same central design of a shield
with a fleur-de-lys topped by a stylized crown with three flourishes in the
shape of a flower within an ogive arch framed by a rounded arch containing
mouchettes and other carved elements of tracery or fenestrage.
Thelower cabinet part has a single, central door with a similarly shaped shield
but different symbols. Thus far the
crest on this central door has stumped us - it is the first time we have seen
the fleur-de-lys depicted diagonally and with the flower in the upper
field. Framing the central door are two
matching panels of beautifully carved tracery - two four-pointed flowers or
soufflets surrounded by ovals subdivided into mouchettes. Variations on this theme are seen on the sides
of the cabinet and reflect its importance (and extra expense) as a piece of
19th century furniture designed to be the star attraction of a reception room
or great hall. Otherwise these side panels would have been blank or filled
with a design less time-consuming to execute, such as plis-de-serviette or
Particularlystriking and unusual are the intricately carved pilasters supporting the middle
cabinet and repeated at the corners of the middle and upper parts of the
cabinet as well as between the two doors of the upper cabinet. They serve to unite the design and call
attention to the architectural origins of Gothic furniture design in general
and this cabinet in particular.
The fleur-de-lys appears again in the bottom section of the cabinet as a central,
heraldic ornament in a beautifully carved, open-work canopy framing the top of
the base or pot-board.
Balancingthe elaborate framing of the potboard is the crest-rail atop this cabinet,
executed in the intricate tracery design used for 14th century cabinets
designed to hold treasured vestments and other textiles in Gothic
cathedrals. At the front corners, the
crest-rail is anchored by two substantial blocks topped by elaborately carved
finials in the shape of a flame or "flamme," as this flamboyant
Gothic style has been dubbed.